One of Philadelphia’s most famous aspects is its rich history. A key factor in the formation—and once the capital—of our country, the city does its best to preserve its colonial era buildings for all future generations to enjoy.
But just because current and future generations are enjoying them does not mean that past generations are done with them yet.
Yes, in a city as old and storied as Philadelphia, restless spirits are all but expected. While they may be eerie and downright terrifying at times, through the years, Philadelphians have learned to embrace its spooky side as just another fact of life.
Just in time for Halloween, here are seven of the most haunted buildings in the city.
1. Eastern State Penitentiary
This one is a no-brainer. From 1829 to 1971, the intimidating structure on Fairmount Avenue housed numerous prisoners, including notorious criminals like Al Capone and Willie Sutton. Legend has it that Cellblocks 4, 6 and 12 are the most haunted areas of the former prison, with visitors and staffers alike reporting everything from shadowy figures to faces on walls to even the apparition of a former guard. Around Halloween, of course, the most notable haunting comes from the actors behind the renowned Terror Behind the Walls attraction.
2. Independence Hall
Perhaps the most historic building in Philadelphia, Independence Hall was where the United States was officially born. Some people say that famed U.S. traitor Benedict Arnold’s restless spirit haunts its hallowed halls; others claim that this is one of several buildings that is still frequented by Founding Father and beloved Philadelphian Ben Franklin.
3. Physick House
This Society Hill museum was the home of Dr. Philip Syng Physick, the “father of American surgery.” While his spirit appears to be at rest, the same cannot be said for that of his ex-wife Elizabeth. During their divorce proceedings, her mental health deteriorated and she became attached to a certain tree on the property, which Philip ultimately had cut down. Legend has it that the former Mrs. Physick still haunts the area of the yard where the tree once stood.
4. Betsy Ross House
This Old City landmark was the home of renowned seamstress Betsy Ross and is also where she is buried. While she died over 150 years ago, visitors to the house have reported hearing her crying near a bed in the basement of the house. Additionally, unidentified ghostly voices have also been reported at the site.
5. City Tavern
When you find a bar that you like, you never leave it—not even after death! Patrons of the swanky City Tavern in Society Hill have reported witnessing the presence of a deceased waiter, who was killed in a brawl on the premises (he is said to move silverware around), as well as a bride who died in a fire that destroyed the original edifice in the 1800s.
6. The Academy of Music
This glorious concert hall on the Avenue of the Arts in Center City is famous for its calendar of performances and other events. These events must be really engaging, as certain people do not want to leave the theater—ever! Visitors seated in the upper section have reported seeing (living) patrons’ hair pulled by mysterious hands and rumpled seats where no one was sitting.
7. Fort Mifflin
Considered one of the most haunted places in America, Fort Mifflin, located near Philadelphia International Airport, is still home to the long-passed spirits of Revolutionary War soldiers. Additionally, many visitors reported hearing the screams of a woman on the premises; in one instance, when police were summoned to the site, no one was found.